Furious public speakers have accused Skegness Town Council of ‘gagging’ them during last night’s meeting.
Rob Curtis of the Skegness Skegness Facebook group had previously called for changes enabling the public to speak about items discussed by councillors during the meeting.
But the alterations introduced last night were far from what he and others present had hoped for.
“When did you decide to gag us?”asked Brenda Futers - one of the angered residents.
“How dare you treat us like this.”
Mrs Futers’ angry comments were greeted by cheers from others who shared her concerns.
Rather than gaining more opportunities to engage in the debate, as had been hoped, the public were instead confined to speaking only on matters on that meeting’s agenda.
Another speaker, Dell Claxton also felt it was an attempt to ‘gag’ the public.
And Mr Curtis was so disheartened that he stormed out, claiming the changes would mean the public was ‘always a week behind’.
Coun Mark Anderson said he was ‘concerned’ at the points raised because it was about ‘listening’ to the residents and hearing ‘what they have to say.’
He also admitted that he wouldn’t have supported the decision for the change but it had been made.
Previously, the public could speak for three minutes each during an allotted 30 minute section before the meeting took place.
A suggestion was made at a May meeting for the public forum to be split in two, part at the beginning and another at the end, to conclude points raised in the meeting.
Coun Steve Kirk at the time said it was ‘not a bad idea’ and town clerk Steve Larner said the council could look into the suggestion, urging all to ‘watch this space’.
But last was not what the public had envisaged and the tension rose into a heated debate when Coun Sid Dennis retaliated angrily to defend the council.
“You berate us Mr Claxton... we work hard,” he said.
Coun Dennis was disappointed that the public had not come forward to discuss issues with him at a time before meetings.
Coun Steve O’Dare agreed, explaining that councillors’ details were online for the public to contact them. He also admitted that the town council meeting was ‘not the best place’ to get the answer on the day.
But Barry Robinson, also of the Skegness Skegness group, said he thought Coun Dennis was ‘out of order’ for the way he spoke out and said something needed doing secure to Skegness’s future.
Some members of the public left after the agenda item, feeling disappointed by the change.